WASHINGTON – A patient recruiter and operator of a Detroit-area home health agency was sentenced to 63 months in prison for his role in a conspiracy to defraud the Medicare program, the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services announced today.
Christopher Collins was also sentenced by U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood in the Eastern District of Michigan to three years of supervised release following his prison term and was ordered to pay $6.97 million in restitution, jointly and severally with his co-conspirators.
Collins, 39, pleaded guilty in May 2010 to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Collins admitted in court documents that he was responsible for submitting or causing the submission of approximately $6.96 million in false or fraudulent claims to the Medicare program between August 2007 and October 2009. According to the plea documents, in the late spring or early summer of 2007, Collins was hired by co-conspirator Muhammad Shahab to work as a nurse at Patient Choice Home Healthcare Inc. Patient Choice purported to provide home health services, including physical and occupational therapy services, to homebound Medicare beneficiaries.
According to plea documents, Collins solicited Medicare beneficiaries for Shahab and Patient Choice and offered them cash kickbacks in exchange for their Medicare patient information and signatures on medical documents. Collins admitted that he knew the beneficiaries he recruited were neither homebound nor in need of physical therapy services. Collins also admitted in court papers that he knew Patient Choice used the beneficiaries’ Medicare information to bill Medicare for physical therapy that was medically unnecessary and/or never performed.
In June 2008, Shahab helped finance and establish All American Home Care Inc. All American was owned at various times by Shahab and Hassan Akhtar, another co-conspirator. Beginning in April 2009, All American was owned by Collins. Collins admitted in court documents that he became the exclusive beneficiary recruiter at All American, recruiting hundreds of patients to the home health agency through the payment of cash kickbacks in exchange for their Medicare information and signature on medical documents. Collins admitted that All American billed Medicare for physical therapy services that were either not rendered or not medically necessary.
Shahab pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud in February 2010. Akhtar pleaded guilty to the same charge in September 2010. Both defendants await sentencing.
Today’s result was announced by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara L. McQuade; Special Agent in Charge Andrew G. Arena of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the HHS Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) Chicago Regional Office.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant Chief John K. Neal and Trial Attorney Gejaa T. Gobena of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The case was investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG, and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, supervised by the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.
Since its inception in March 2007, Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in seven districts have obtained indictments of more than 810 individuals and organizations that collectively have billed the Medicare program for more than $1.85 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov/ .